Suboxone.

Prior Authorization Insurance Requirements: A Barrier to Accessing Lifesaving Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder?

By Juan M. Hincapie-Castillo and Amie J. Goodin

Policies to mitigate the drug overdose crisis continue to fall short, as evidenced by increasing rates of opioid-involved overdoses and deaths in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this overdose crisis, and efforts are urgently needed to mitigate harm.

Individuals who have problematic opioid use are most frequently involved in opioid-involved overdoses, meaning that the use of a prescription opioid, or much more commonly a non-prescription opioid (such as non-medically sourced fentanyl or heroin), is used in a way that adversely affects the person’s life. Problematic opioid use may lead to a diagnosis of opioid use disorder (OUD). The medication buprenorphine has been proven to reduce opioid-involved overdose and harms and is one of few OUD treatments available as a prescription that can be dispensed by community pharmacies rather than from specialized facilities or specialty providers.

The federal government and several states have implemented strategies to improve and promote OUD treatment access, especially for the relatively inexpensive and effective medication buprenorphine. However, there are significant barriers that remain that preclude adequate and timely access to buprenorphine.

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Emergency department entrance.

New Legal Mapping Method Highlights Recent Laws Limiting Public Health Emergency Orders

By Katie Moran-McCabe

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, legislators in almost every state have introduced bills that would limit state executive authority to respond to the current pandemic or future public health emergencies. Between January 1, 2021, and November 5, 2021, one or more of these bills were enacted into law and became effective in 19 states.

This finding is a product of a new legal mapping method called Sentinel Surveillance of Emerging Laws and Policies (SSELP), developed by researchers from our Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University (CPHLR), with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This mapping method is intended to quickly capture and track emerging laws and legal innovations impacting public health, and to instigate faster evaluation of their effects on health and health equity.

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Doctor in white coat neck down

Buzzwords in Patient Safety: Some Preliminary Thoughts

By John Tingle and Amanda Cattini

Every profession, service, or industry maintains what can be termed, “buzzwords.” A “buzzword” can be defined as transient, flavor-of-the-month-type word, which describes a concept than can be seen to direct policy and practice until it becomes less topical and eventually fades away from general use. These terms come and go and are often refined and come back into use. In the National Health Service (NHS) in England, we have seen such pervading terms as clinical governance, patient empowerment, controls assurance, and patient advocacy.

Today there is what can arguably be called a new buzzword, “decolonization.” This word seems very much to be the term of the day. It pervades vast areas of academic and professional life and discourse. In terms of health law and patient safety research, the decolonization of national and global patient safety systems and structures seems an interesting perspective to further peruse.

One benefit of adopting decolonization perspectives to patient safety is that we can utilize the concept as a disrupter of established thinking and seek to establish new foundations of knowledge.

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Person smoking cigarette.

Graphic Warnings on Cigarettes: Public Health vs. Corporate Speech

By Laura Karas

The latest attempt of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make a dent in the country’s intractable tobacco problem is a set of color graphic warnings that will appear on cigarette packages and advertisements beginning in June of 2021.

The legal battle surrounding the graphic warnings and other attempts to regulate commercial speech in the food and drug context illustrate the courts’ enduring failure to appreciate the full extent and substantiality of the government’s interest in promoting public health.

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Empty hospital bed.

The Inevitability of Error in Health Care

By John Tingle

A recent publication by the World Health Organization (WHO), a first draft of a global patient safety action plan 2021-2030, seems to have rekindled conversations about the “inevitability of error” in the field of patient safety.

The “inevitability of error” argument indicates that mistakes in health care do inevitably happen; that they are the consequences of the complex nature of health care treatment. Nursing and medicine depend on people, and nobody is infallible — we all make mistakes.

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Houses.

Author Q&A: State Preemption of Inclusionary Zoning Policies and Health Outcomes

Courtnee E. Melton-Fant, PhD

Historically, federal and state governments have been primarily responsible for increasing and maintaining the supply of affordable housing. But as budgets decrease, the burden has fallen more and more to local governments. Inclusionary zoning policies, which seek to reverse the negative, exclusionary effects of conventional zoning, are one tool local governments can use to increase affordable housing stock.

Courtnee Melton-Fant, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Memphis School of Public Health, recently published research in Housing Policy Debate that explores the growing trend of preemption as it relates to these inclusionary zoning policies.

Dr. Melton-Fant’s research used policy surveillance data produced by the Center for Public Health Law Research with the National League of Cities to examine the relationship between state preemption of inclusionary zoning policies and health outcomes among different demographic groups — particularly among people of color.

We asked Dr. Melton-Fant a few questions about her work.

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Empty classroom.

Who’s to Blame for COVID-19 Outbreaks at Colleges and Universities?

By Sravya Chary

For many U.S. colleges and universities that opted for in-person instruction this fall, the return to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven disastrous, and prompted the question: who’s to blame for these new outbreaks?

Although administrators are quick to blame student behavior, in this post, I will argue that the administrations are ultimately at fault – their negligence has put students’ health at risk and exacerbated the public health catastrophe.

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Assessing legal responses to COVID-19 graphic.

New Report Assesses Legal Responses to COVID-19

Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19 is a new, in-depth analysis of U.S. legal and policy responses to the pandemic.

In the report, 50 top national experts offer a new assessment of the U.S. policy response to the crisis. The research details the widespread failure of the country’s leadership in planning and executing a cohesive, national response, and how the crisis exposed weaknesses in the nation’s health care and public health systems.

The report’s authors also offer recommendations on how federal, state and local leaders can better respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics. Their proposals recommend how to strengthen executive leadership for a stronger emergency response; expand access to public health, health care, and telehealth; fortify protections for workers; and implement a fair and humane immigration policy.

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Masks.

Indiana’s Mask Mandate Debate Raises Public Health Enforcement Questions

By Ross Silverman

On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced an Emergency Order to mandate mask wearing in public places beginning July 27, and indicated that violations of the order could potentially result in criminal penalties. Shortly after, Attorney General Curtis Hill issued an opinion questioning the Governor’s authority to criminalize mask violations under the state’s Emergency Management and Disaster Law (EMDL).

Indiana’s Executive Order, while in line with some 30 other states now imposing mask orders, represents a change of positions for the Governor. Holcomb has been an advocate for mask wearing in both word and deed, but, until now, not a mandate. As he indicated at his press conference, there have been “concerning changes” in the state’s trajectory of new COVID-19 cases, and that “By masking up, we can & will save lives & slow the spread of #COVID19.”

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NHS building

Obtaining a Hospital Bed in the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Legal Perspective

By John Tingle

The recently reported case of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust v MB [2020] EWHC 882 captures well the value of English common case law in resolving complex health care disputes within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and more generally.

Mr Justice Chamberlain in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice ruled recently that a patient, known as MB, who had occupied an NHS bed for over a year, must vacate it and instead receive care in the community. Her room could be required urgently by COVID-19 patients and there would be an increased risk of MB contracting COVID-19 if she remained in hospital.

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